The Nigeria Ministry for Youth and Sports and the NFF needs to look at what there have done as a body to arrest issues of bribery and corruption in sports.
In 2014, I had a very talented player on my books, he was so good that he always passes screening wherever he goes and I can tell you that he has undergone many screenings with different teams in the top-flight, managers, and even scouts coming from outside the country. It might just have been my eyes deceiving me that he was good, but everywhere he goes, he was among the first three players to be selected by any coach or scouts.
Today, he is still playing football as a hobby without signing any professional contract. Every time we got to that stage where his name is penciled down as one of the players to be taken, money will be demanded in excess of N200,000, scouts from abroad who will be willing to take him with them will be stopped by their representatives here in Nigeria and at the end of every trial, the story will remain the same.
The talent was very obvious that even a blind man can see but because of the corrupt nature of our officials, that dream is looking like it will never manifest. He made it to the open camp organised for age-grade footballers for a chance to represent Nigeria at that level, but there at that camp, thousands of players trooped in from different part of the country for the same event and the coaches were overwhelmed by the crowd thereby resorting to selecting players from the academy who were already in their books.
Corruption is a big issue in Nigeria which has to be seriously dealt with. It is quite sad when you see people defending what others are doing which has successfully stained the integrity of our great nation, claiming there is nothing anyone can do because it is in Nigeria.
It has not started today, this has been going on for decades, even putting Nigeria on the brink of an international ban.
In 2019, the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) threatened to ban the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) over the delay by Nigeria in refunding an excess of $135, 000 which was mistakenly paid to the country in 2017.
The IAAF mistakenly sent $150,000 to the AFN instead of the annual $15,000 usually given to its affiliate body. On discovering the error, IAAF wrote to Nigeria demanding a return of $135,000.
Two years on, the AFN refused to refund the money which prompted the world athletic body to threaten Nigeria with a ban and gave the nation two weeks deadline.
The Minister for Youth and Sports at the time of the incident claimed IAAF was trying to blackmail Nigeria which he said the country committed no crime.
He said: “I think Nigeria has been unfairly treated because the issue has been painted and promoted as if there was any wrongdoing on the part of Nigeria. “Certainly not, grants were released to Nigeria on May 17, 2017. IAAF on the 19th confirmed the transaction; those from IAAF after two months turned round and cried foul that it was a mistake.
“They transferred money to us; they confirmed the transaction to us, then after two months, they woke up from slumber. Is IAAF telling us they are as much disorganised as that? Where is Nigeria wrong? IAAF cannot wake up and just realise that they have something to hold on to. We are not even convinced that there is any mistake, the money was sent for the golden relays, and it was done. Are they saying there were no golden relays?
“I think those promoting this are trying to cry blue murder; I think they are just enemies of this country and we should ask questions,” Dalung stated.
That was the honourable Minister defending his country and the ministry he is heading against invasion by intruders. The question is, what happened after that? There were reports of the minister approving 50% of the money which was hilariously turn out to be money for the purchased of kits for Team Nigeria.
I asked again, what did Nigeria do after that incident? Who took the fall for those actions?
In 2016, Daniel Amokachi in a protest to the National Assembly alleged that Nigerian youths were forced to pay as much as N250,000 each to get into the national U-17 team (Golden Eaglets).
He said “Corruption has invaded sports so deeply that even at FIFA headquarters in Zurich, we saw how the world stood up and said, “Enough is enough.” We saw how the president, Sepp Blatter was not spared. He was removed from office because integrity matters when it comes to the constitution.
“President Muhammadu Buhari doesn’t take nonsense when it comes to fighting corruption. I have said I will support the movement, because in my field, which is sports, corruption is now the order of the day. Amokachi continued: “For instance, in Nigerian football today, the youths, when invited to the national team, a coach will ask them to bring N250,000 each to get into the U-17 team when he already has the talent. If a person has talent, he should be allowed to showcase what he has in the interest of the nation.”
“A small team cannot win the Nigerian league because all the people in Nigerian football are corrupt.”
What was the reaction of the National Assembly, Sports Ministry, and the NFF? Who took the fall and was the case fully investigated?
In 2019, 29 witnesses lined up to testify in a 17-count charge instituted against the NFF President Amaju Pinnick, Secretary-General, Sunusi Mohammed, 1st Vice President Seyi Akinwumi, 2nd Vice-President Shehu Dikko, and Executive member Yusuf Fresh, before the Federal High Court in Abuja, over alleged “moving dishonestly and intentionally the sum of about N4billion” belonging to the NFF without the consent of the NFF.
What did the authorities do about that? Of course, they were exonerated and are still holding their positions despite the allegations.
Amos Adamu was banned for three years in 2010 by FIFA for bribery. For almost two decades (1991 – 2008) he was in charge of multi-million dollar sports budget in Nigeria. What did the authorities do?
What about that of Coach Salisu Yusuf who was caught in a video taking a bribe to include a player in his CHAN squad? He was found guilty and was fined with $5000 and a one-year ban from football-related activities. A year later, he was welcomed back to the fold and is now the head coach of NPFL side, Enugu Rangers.
The latest is the 2014 FIFA World Cup squad in Brazil, I wouldn’t want to go over that but if you haven’t read about the bribery allegation labeled against the late Stephen Keshi and his coaching crew by former players Chinedu Obasi, Emmanuel Sarki, Imoh Ezekiel and Taye Taiwo.
Nigeria is deeply rotten into bribery and corruption, this will continue if those in authorities continue to be quiet without taking drastic measures to curb this menace. You cannot welcome back those who have committed crimes into the fold, they must be punished to serve as deterrence to others, unless, those high up are involved, hence, will explain their silence.
It is becoming embarrassing, to say the least, that Nigeria is losing talents and are failing in international competitions because of bribery and corruption. I earnestly hope the minister for youth and sports, Sunday Dare will take full charge of these allegations and get to the bottom of it, whoever is found guilty should face the full wrath of the law.
That’s all from me, till tomorrow, have a good one.
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